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Lugar Center at IUPUI gets Department of Energy award for clean-coal research project

Jing Zhang
Jing Zhang


June 8, 2012

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Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is one of nine universities to share in $2.7 million in federal funding for research projects that will support the continuing innovation and development of clean-coal technologies.

The Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy in the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI won a $293,519 U.S. Department of Energy award to research a manufacturing process to improve the high-temperature corrosion resistance coatings on turbine blades and other components used in coal-fired power plants, school officials have announced.

The Lugar Center will research the production of novel high-temperature oxide-based double-layer thermal barrier coatings. Compared with conventional thermal barrier coatings, the proposed novel oxides have demonstrated lower thermal conductivity and better thermal stability -- characteristics crucial to extending the life and improving the performance of turbine components used in advanced coal-fired plants. These novel coating materials can tolerate the harsh operating temperatures in power generation equipment and can potentially enable operation at conditions that would improve generation efficiency, conserve fuel and reduce carbon pollution.

Under the supervision of principal investigator Jing Zhang, the Lugar Center, including student researchers, will collaborate with Praxair Surface Technologies of Indianapolis to design and fabricate the novel high-temperature oxide-based coatings, evaluate and characterize the coating properties in real-operating conditions, and develop computational models to study the coating performance.

“We’re thrilled to be selected by the Department of Energy as one of the nine universities in the country to help advance American clean-coal technologies,” said Zhang, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at IUPUI and faculty researcher at the Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy.

“Together with Praxair Surface Technologies, we’ll leverage our advanced energy research strengths to develop novel thermal barrier coatings for key components of steam turbines used in electric power generation -- a technology that can lead to longer component lifetimes, greater reliability and eventually lower production costs for electricity.

“These results could benefit any type of power plant that uses heat, including those which run on coal, uranium, biomass, municipal solid waste or concentrated solar power. Ultimately, our goal is to contribute to the improvement of our national energy security.”

The clean-coal university research grants will help build on extensive progress made by the Obama administration to promote innovative technologies that help make coal-fired energy cleaner and more cost-competitive, while training the next generation of scientists and engineers in cutting-edge clean coal technologies, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in announcing the awards.

In March, Chu made a special visit to IUPUI to meet with university leaders and to conduct a student town hall forum on the future of clean energy. That meeting followed a September 2011 announcement that the School of Engineering and Technology would receive a $1.3 million DOE competitive grant to train undergraduate- and graduate-level students in manufacturing efficiency.

“We are delighted that Dr. Zhang has been awarded this highly competitive funding and he will be leading this project as a member of our Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy,” said David Russomanno, dean of the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, IUPUI. “Our school’s new strategic plan emphasizes competing at the highest levels and becoming one of the nation’s premier, urban schools for engineering and technology. Dr. Zhang’s work supports this plan.”

The university research projects funded include those that will focus on the development of high-temperature, high-pressure corrosion-resistant alloys, protective coatings and structural materials for advanced coal-fired power plants and gas turbines, as well as projects to develop new processes and computational design methods to develop these materials, improve efficiency and reduce the costs of cleaner power generation systems.

The other universities earning awards of approximately $300,000 each are:
•Brown University (Providence, R.I.)
•Dartmouth College (Hanover, N.H.)
•Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio)
•Southern Illinois University (Carbondale, Ill.)
•Texas Engineering Experiment Station (College Station, Texas)
•University of North Texas (Denton, Texas), in partnership with University of Idaho (Moscow, Idaho)
•University of Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn.)
•University of Toledo (Toledo, Ohio)